Climbing the career ladder as a woman can be tough, but what about when there are additional elements, besides gender, that are making that ascent slightly more challenging? Equity within the workplace is the art of understanding that there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’.

A shifting mindset

Equity hasn’t always been something we naturally consider when discussing creating a workplace that is fair for all. An equitable workplace is one that arms everyone (taking into consideration their individual circumstances, resource needs, adjustments etc.) with the things they need to help them along their path to success. This is why it feels me with joy to see that this year’s International Women’s Day theme is indeed equity. 

Back in the early stages of my career, equity was never something I thought to consider as an option for myself. To paint the picture, when I started my career all those years ago, I was a 21-year-old woman of colour and a single parent fresh out of university with a two-month-old baby. I also had the same ambition and hunger as my fellow graduates, however unlike them, I had some additional obstacles to try to navigate. 

Back then, I thought the only way I could succeed (or be seen as a serious contender for success) was to pretend I was exactly the same as my peers and not challenge the fact that I perhaps needed different tools to help me get to where I wanted to go. If I’d have known what I know now, or employers were having mindful conversations such as the ones we’re having now, things would have been very different.

Illustration of a multitasking mother

Research shows that 90% of single parent households in the UK are headed by women

Knowledge is key

Let’s be honest, all parenting (whether you’re in a two-parent household, co-parenting or, like myself, doing it completely alone), while trying to gain maximum career fulfilment, is no piece of cake and as human beings, we’re not always adept at putting ourselves in the shoes of others. Research shows that around 90% of single parent households in the UK are headed by women, so if you’re an employer or colleague working alongside a single mother that is also trying to do her best to succeed within the working world (particularly if you’re in a male dominated industry), here are six things to have in mind so that you can get the best out of her while providing an adequate support structure. 

  1. Yes, single parents are indeed superstars, but we haven’t quite mastered the art of being in multiple places at once! Remember, if your colleague is parenting alone, this means absolutely everything (from doctor’s visits to school appointments) will be done alone. Therefore, a great deal of flexibility and trust as an employer can go a long way. 

  2. Women are naturally seen as the organisers within the workplace, (the ones typically assigned with the office housework-style tasks) but, with the exception of those that actually have these tasks within their job remit, not every female employee wants to be. For a lot of single mothers in particular, work is a space for them to explore their other side. A chance to focus on something completely different from their day-to-day life of organising everything alone. So be fair when assigning extra tasks within your team, never assume.

  3. For some single mothers it helps to carry out work-related tasks within specific hours that might not necessarily be the same as others. Consider this when you’re expecting a response to something or setting deadlines. Understand that what might work for you, may not necessarily work for them.

  4. Working remotely may not always mean working from home. It may mean spending half the day at a workspace or coffee shop within adequate proximity to that holiday club or weekly nursery pick up. Make sure single mothers within your organisation are comfortable enough to know that when childcare options are limited, they can choose how they decide to work as long as the job gets done. 

  5. Keep communication open and honest. Mothering alone doesn’t mean an end to all career ambition. Ensure that you’re aware of your employee’s goals and adjustments. Create a space whereby she feels comfortable enough to come to you if she requires any extra support without feeling as if this will reflect negatively on her when it comes to being put forward for a promotion.

  6. With this in mind, don’t assume that the single mothers within your team are not open to taking on any extra work simply because they “won’t have time”. Every employee is entitled to the same options, and if taking on that extra client presentation is a task that can contribute to an individual’s career growth, make sure all eligible employees are given this option. 

Child smiling in a coffee shop. Picture taken from behind a laptop screen.

Working remotely may not always mean working from home


As a single mother, I cannot stress enough how valuable it is when you find an employer that fully supports your career growth and will work with you to ensure you get there. Not only has this greatly enhanced my experience as an employee at VantagePoint, but as a member of the leadership team, the knowledge I have gained from my past experiences reminds me to have equity at the forefront of my mind when considering the different needs of our employees.

So happy International Women’s Day, imagine the impact we could all have within the workplace if we all embraced equity.


Terms used within this article:

  • Co-parenting: when parenting responsibilities are shared between two parents who are not in a relationship and live separately.
  • Single parenting: when all or the majority of the parenting responsibilities (including financial) are carried out alone.
  • Office housework: essential but unsung tasks that do not necessarily contribute to career advancement (when not part of a person’s remit/job description) e.g. meeting summaries, checking in on an upset team member, organising extracurricular office activities. 

All opinions within this piece are my own from the perspective of a single mother within full time corporate employment.

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